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Cathy McKay. Courtesy photo




See Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical

Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
When: Friday, Jan. 16, through Saturday, Jan. 31
Contact: palacetheatre.org, 668-5588
Admission: Tickets are between $15 and $45




Hair loss and hot flashes
Palace starts 2015 with Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical

01/15/15
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



Hot flashes. Cold sweats. Hair loss. Biological clocks. AARP letters.

When Palace Theatre staff was looking for a production to fill its January slice of the 2014-2015 season, there were three titles to choose from. Perhaps it was because of the staff’s age, but Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical won outright.
“Doing a show called Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical is certainly something that’s going to attract your attention,” said George Piehl, a member of the production’s six-member cast. “For folks my age, it’s something you’re living through or have lived through. It’s part of your everyday. So yeah, I was very interested to see that material.”
Artistic Director Carl Rajotte said he would have been hesitant to direct the musical if prompted to years ago, but quite a few elements of Midlife! hit closer to home than he might like to admit.
“To tell you the truth, five to 10 years ago, if the president of the theater, Paul [Ramsey], was like, ‘Let’s do Mid-Life!’ I would have been like, ‘No, that’s cheesy, I don’t want to do it.’ But I was all for it. I think it’s the time in my life, too,” Rajotte said during an interview at the Palace between rehearsals last week. “I read the script, and everything was so poignant to me.”
The musical is kind of like a mix between a couple hours of Saturday Night Live and a musical revue. Topics like menopause and mammograms and trying to get your kid to move out of the house are dealt with in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way, and Rajotte has devised a cast to make that content relevant to as many theater-goers as possible.
“It’s written for six people — three couples — and I decided I wanted to do three different ages for these couples,” Rajotte said. “Mid-life, now, is different for everybody.”
The couples are in their 30s, 40s and 50s, and they’ll be played by Piehl (best known for his role as Scrooge in the Palace’s annual A Christmas Carol); Cathy McKay; Michelle Rajotte (Carl Rajotte’s sister); Brad Rupp; Jill Pennington Deleault and Marc Willis. 
Other subjects cover turning 40 and translating midlife language, loss of body mobility and changing directions. The first act ends with a number called, “I Quit!” which involves quitting an assortment of things in life: Your job. Your marriage. Maybe even your sexuality.
“A lot of the topics explored in the show could be done in a very dramatic way. They could be done while pulling heartstrings, in a sad way, but everything is handled with humor. And it’s great to be able to laugh at the things that could otherwise, in your life, be very hard to deal with,” Rajotte said.
Numbers are big, flashy and satirical, and sets include five onstage TV towers that help scene changes. When McKay’s character gets eye surgery, for instance, the TVs will project an eye chart that starts blurry and comes into focus. (“I sing a song about just having Lasik surgery, and it’s about how I see things much clearer. And my husband I see clearer, too,” McKay said.)
The cast has a “ridiculous” number of costume changes and needs to learn an equally ridiculous amount of music.
“We’re known for our big, flashy musicals, but truth be told, I love doing the smaller musicals with smaller casts. I think I get to focus a little bit more one-on-one with the actors. It’s a little bit easier as a director because for me, I don’t have as many people to deal with, but it’s harder on the actors because they have so much more material to learn and cover,” Rajotte said. 
Touching moments are intertwined between the silly ones; Rajotte and his sister were moved to tears by “The Last Goodbye,” about parents growing older.
“I lost my mom 14 years ago, so it brought up a lot of emotions. The first time I put the song on, I just cried and cried, and I couldn’t believe it, but it just shows you how well-written it is, that I was able to visualize everything,” Rajotte said.
McKay and Piehl said the cast were enjoying and energized by the challenge and humor of the show. (Piehl joked he’ll probably lose 15 pounds from the singing and dancing required.) 
Rajotte said this is how he wants cast members to feel every production.
“I grew up playing sports, and so to me, the team aspect is very important. I look at myself as the director, but I’m a coach, too. I’m working on their morale and making sure we’re all in it to win it, and in it for the right reasons and that we’re all getting along, because otherwise, the show won’t be as good,” Rajotte said. 
 
As seen in the January 15, 2015 issue.





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